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Fund Set Up to Kick-Start Community for Underrepresented People in Statistics

1 July 2023 No Comment
The Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Outreach Group Corner is a regular component of Amstat News in which statisticians write about and educate our community about JEDI-related matters. If you have an idea or article for the column, email the JEDI Corner manager.

Michael Tsiang is a continuing lecturer in the department of statistics and data science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He serves as secretary for the Southern California Chapter of the ASA and is a member of the ASA LGBTQ+ Advocacy Committee.

I am lucky to have my dream job working in the department of statistics at the University of California, Los Angeles. My mom worked at UCLA as a librarian for 40 years; I grew up on this campus, and it has always felt like home. I love what I do, and I have a department of faculty, staff, alumni, and students who make me feel like I belong every single day.

However, there’s a phrase that has come back to me many times over the last few years: “This moment is not about me.” I know not everyone feels the same sense of belonging I do in STEM, especially students and faculty from minoritized backgrounds. Though I feel safe in my current position, I have been in other STEM environments in which I did not feel welcome for reasons completely unrelated to my intelligence or competence in the field. I felt invisible and marginalized—a second-class citizen.

I never want my statistics department to make others feel like they do not have a place in it. Though the topic of equity and inclusion has been of particular and personal interest to me for years, it is more important than ever to lean into this movement in today’s social climate. To that end, in October 2020, I created the Michael Tsiang Fund for Belonging in Statistics, an initiative to create a safe and supportive community for the many groups that have been historically underrepresented in statistics—women, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities, people with low incomes, and first-generation students—to address any and all invisible ways people can be marginalized and underrepresented.

The Michael Tsiang Fund for Belonging in Statistics does the following:

  • Works within the UCLA Department of Statistics to create a space for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and allies to work and learn together
  • Funds community inclusivity initiatives and student awards within the statistics department
  • Helps cover the costs of lectures, panel discussions, workshops, screenings, research, community outreach, and other activities that empower and educate our community
  • Ensures these efforts remain at the forefront of the statistics department’s priorities year after year
  • Helps kick-start an intentional community for underrepresented people in statistics

Creating a safe and supportive community for all requires consistent effort. I wanted to ensure there would always be funds available to support any initiatives helping further the ideals of diversity, equity, and inclusion, which led me to consider a permanent endowment.

In the fall of 2020, the dean of physical sciences issued a challenge to match 100 percent of any endowments, pledges, or donations totaling $100,000 or more made by June 30, 2021, so the timing was opportune. I knew I would not be able to donate such an amount on my own, but I hoped the goal would be achievable through crowdfunding.

Closely collaborating with the physical sciences development office, I leveraged my personal and professional network of friends, family, former students, and alumni through emails, social media posts, and personal solicitation. Attaching my name to the fund was not only a way to express my direct involvement and firm belief in its cause but also a way to add a connection for members in my personal community to donate toward, even if they are not directly associated with the statistics community.

Through an initial personal contribution and significant fundraising efforts, I was able to raise more than $100,000 by June 30, 2021, establishing the fund as a permanent endowment less than nine months after its creation and ensuring that addressing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion are a priority for the department in perpetuity. In addition, the dean of physical sciences is matching 100 percent of the inaugural donations, immediately doubling the support for our mission to more than $200,000.

I plan to establish a fund committee in the coming academic year to discuss ways to address the issues in our community and make sure funds are used in appropriate and impactful ways that are consistent with the mission to create a greater sense of belonging for everyone. With the support of the department leadership and the fund, I am excited and hopeful the department will be at the forefront of building a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive community in statistics within UCLA and around the world.

Pledge your support or give a gift to this fund.

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